Symposium on media rights & responsibilities
KARACHI – Citizens’ role and active participation in the national media is the weakest in Pakistan. There remains a vital need to empower the average citizen, as society becomes media-centric at breakneck speed with effective means independent of the interests of the government and the media, so as to promote fairness and balance.
Policymaking and opinion-forming both in the civic society and within the official or government sector remains sensitive to reportage. As the dissemination of information is channelled and controlled in varied ways serving different ‘publics’, the interest meanwhile of the real citizen is barely audible when no mechanism exists to enforce being his right to be heard. Community participation at the grass-roots level to educate people of their rights and make them aware of their responsibilities is mandatory so that public interest for the greater good is better served.
These were some of the observations at a local hotel in Karachi on July 26, at the conclusion of a round-table symposium organised by the Citizens’ Media Commission of Pakistan (CMCP) in cooperation with the German Foundation, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung entitled, ‘Citizens’ Media Rights and Responsibilities’.
The CMCP’s founding convenor, a former senator and federal minister, Javed Jabbar, delivered the lecture.
Following are the citizens’ rights and responsibilities presented during the presentation:
1) All citizens, indeed all human beings, should have convenient access to all the media subject to just laws and universally recognised principles of human rights.
2) Citizens should be able to choose between options within each medium rather than be dependent on only one source.
3) Citizens should be able to receive media content which is reasonably balanced between news/analysis/programming and advertising contents.
4) Citizens should have convenient access to information about identities of persons and organisations in regard to media ownership, management control, sources of funding and on other financial aspects of the media.
5) Citizens should have access to independent and credible mechanisms which enable them to hold the media accountable for accuracy, fairness and balance.
6) They should have right to access the media at a reasonable price.
7) Citizens should have a right to be given appropriate time and space in the media directly or indirectly without a charge in case media content is inaccurate, misleading or defamatory about a citizen or the community to which a citizen belongs.
8) Citizens should have the right to own and operate non-profit public service media without being obliged to pay auction-based license fees.
9) When citizens write letters or complaints about aspects of media content, they should receive acknowledgements/replies.
10) Citizens have the right to know how the media content they are being exposed to is being presented in other parts of the world.
11) All citizens have the right to be imparted media literacy and be informed on media issues as part of their general education.
The 11 responsibilities of citizens include:
1) Citizens should help to ensure that all the media function freely as per the laws of the country, region and the world.
Where laws are unjust or unduly restrictive, they should campaign to change them.
2) Citizens should actively support and demand pluralism in the media.
3) Citizens should also originate and contribute to media contents and not remain passive consumers.
4) Citizens should monitor media ownership and cross-media ownership to prevent undue concentration of media power.
5) Citizens should create and operate civil society forums that serve as independent bodies to monitor the media policies and content.
6) Citizens should fulfil their financial obligations by observing copyright of the media content and respecting intellectual property rights.
7) When citizens use media, they should promote truth and accuracy.
8) Citizens should initiate and operate or support ‘citizens’ media’ that are exclusively focused on public interest and which helps balance the dominance of corporate and state-controlled media.
9) Citizens should help protect the media and its practitioners from physical violence.
10) Citizens should operate citizens-controlled or citizens-driven media such as the Internet, cell phones, etc by giving primacy to the values of fraternity amongst all people to help build peace.
11) Citizens should campaign for inclusion in school and college curricula of information on media issues to prepare young people to effectively address their media rights and responsibilities.
In his proposal elucidation, Jabbar said that to spread information on citizens’ media rights and responsibilities there is a need to take effective steps at all the levels to achieve the best results of disseminating information of citizens’ rights and responsibilities. This would involve enlisting the participation of concerned sections of society, of existing public interest and civil society organisations, which are already working with communities across the country and to form local community-based chapters of the commission on citizen’s media.
Responding to a comment of a former president of the PFUJ and KPC that Jabbar was representing the thoughts of a particular group of people and he must talk to journalists directly, he (Jabbar) said he is willing to have a one-to-one dialogue with them at the Karachi Press Club, without finalising any date, however.
Chairman, CMCP, and a former chief justice of Pakistan, Dr Nasim Hasan Shah during his closing address said the lecture and the following discussion have brought a very new idea to the people and the government of Pakistan and it needs to be understood with more deliberation at all levels to bring about a qualitative change in the current scenario.
Source: The News